Sudan Announces it will Try Ethiopian Hijackers
The Sudanese government announced Sunday that it would try five hijackers of an Ethiopian military plane who surrendered last Friday and released their 51 hostages unharmed.
"The hijackers will be tried in Khartoum under international and domestic laws," Sudanese Information Minister Ghazi Salaheddin Atabani told reporters here.
It was seen as a final decision in the case. Neither the Sudanese nor the Ethiopian government has said whether Addis Ababa ever delivered a formal request to Khartoum for the five to be extradited for trial in Ethiopia.
Ethiopian national radio reported that Ethiopia on Friday asked Sudan to extradite the five, under an extradition treaty between the two countries.
Atabani added that the hijackers were undergoing questioning prior to the filing of charges and a trial.
Sudanese officials had always been reluctant to extradite the five, who surrendered with reassurances they would not be sent home to Ethiopia.
Sudanese Foreign Minister Mustafa Ismail traveled to Ethiopia late Friday amid reports he would discuss the fate of the five hijackers.
Ismail told the As-Sahafa newspaper that as of Friday night Khartoum had not received a formal request for the extradition of the five.
Ismail said the release of the hostages was a victory for Sudanese diplomacy, adding that Khartoum had been faced with the choice of raiding the plane or negotiating to end the ordeal peacefully.
Atabani said over the weekend the five had been given firm guarantees.
"We have given them a firm promise of granting them asylum," he said, adding that "asylum" did not give them immunity from trial while "political asylum" did.
"The government has pledged to the hijackers to give them a fair trial in accordance with international laws and not to hand them over to Ethiopia," Atabani told a newspaper on Saturday.
The 51 passengers and crew returned to Ethiopia on Saturday.
In Addis Ababa, officials said three of the hijackers were military personnel aged around 20 who recently failed tests to become fighter pilots, and were armed with pistols, hand grenades and knives.
Two unarmed people involved in the incident were relatives of the three.
The hijackers told reporters here they were trying to escape economic and political difficulties at home – KHARTOUM (AFP).